Top Pakistan University to Ban Kissing

By Correspondent, Issam Ahmed | The Christian Science Monitor, October 14, 2009 | Go to article overview

Top Pakistan University to Ban Kissing


Correspondent, Issam Ahmed, The Christian Science Monitor


It all started with a kiss.

When an unsuspecting female student at Lahore University of Management Sciences turned to peck her boyfriend on the cheek during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan last month, she probably thought her private moment would remain just that.

Instead the kiss - which a fellow student witnessed, documented, and then blasted in an email to the entire university as part of her "dossier" on campus PDAs (public displays of affection) - has sparked a passionate, headline-grabbing debate about how conservative Pakistani society should be.

The vigilant student, Tajwar Tashfin Awan, sent the mass email in an effort to generate support from students and the administration, which has since promised to "see any PDA go the route of the dodo." Instead, in the past several weeks it has generated hundreds of replies invoking anger, humor, and famous philosophers on what is normally a quiet listserv.

The brouhaha at LUMS, Pakistan's premier educational institution, points to the drastically different ideological directions in which youths across the country are being pulled, says Asif Akthar, the Lahore-based blogger who first reported the story and is now a research assistant at the university.

"I think [the debate over the kiss] signifies a conflict between different cultural identities and shows there is something unresolved there," he says.

LUMS's leafy campus, located in a heavily fortified compound in the posh Defence neighborhood of Lahore, has stood out in Pakistan as a place where students of all stripes seem to coexist. Dressed in everything from burqas and shalwar kameez to tank tops and skinny jeans, and drawn mostly from the upper-middle class, the student body goes on to hold top jobs in finance, industry, law, and software engineering. Many continue their studies in the West.

"At LUMS, you'll find people of all ideological persuasions studying and living together easily. There's a deeply secular community. There are religious ascetics who believe in a more tolerant form of Islam. There are Deobandis [an ultraconservative branch of Islam], and there are Marxists," says Ammar Rashid, a recent graduate and now research assistant in social sciences. …

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